Tauzin leaves PhRMA

TAUZIN LEAVES PHRMA…. The White House decided early on that when it came to health care reform, it could only handle combating so many enemies. The insurance industry would prove daunting enough, and policymakers didn’t want to take on the pharmaceutical industry at the same time. A compromise was struck, and PhRMA endorsed the Democratic reform framework (and invested in advertising that seemed to make no difference whatsoever).

Brokering the deal was PhRMA’s top lobbyist Billy Tauzin, a powerful former GOP lawmaker. Yesterday, Tauzin announced his departure.

Billy Tauzin, one of Washington’s highest-paid lobbyists, is resigning as president of the drug industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America amid internal disputes over its pact with the White House to trade political support for favorable terms in the proposed health care overhaul. […]

Like almost every other seasoned Washington player, Mr. Tauzin, who makes $2 million a year, bet on health care reform early — only to watch it come to a screeching halt… [A]fter the health care overhaul stalled when Democrats lost the Massachusetts Senate seat, some industry leaders felt the trade group had gone too far giving concessions and could lose on some important legislative issues without gaining the protection it had sought.

Tauzin’s deal proved to be contentious among nearly every constituency — the left thought PhRMA was getting off easy; Republicans wanted the industry (a long-time GOP ally) to help in killing reform; and the industry thought Tauzin had conceded too much.

The question, at this point, is whether Tauzin’s absence will help or hurt the larger effort. There’s a reasonably strong possibility that, with Tauzin leaving, PhRMA will not just walk away from reform, but will try to put a nail in reform’s coffin. It’s also possible that the industry’s opinion wouldn’t necessarily dictate the outcome — Dems are either going to muster the strength to finish the job or they won’t.

The larger dynamic is unsettled, but Politico makes it sound as if policymakers have been dealing with industry executives directly, not Tauzin, so his departure won’t necessarily change anything. What’s more, Jonathan Cohn spoke to some industry insiders last night, who were skeptical that the landscape was poised to change significantly.

Still, it’s one more opaque piece to an ever-changing puzzle. Keep an eye on PhRMA’s next move.